New York City’s proposal to ban oversized sugar drinks has survived stiff opposition from big business interests and the "don't take away my freedom of choice" crowd. And just about everybody expects the measure will be copied elsewhere in the nation, including your town and/or state!
The city health board voted 8-0 today to outlaw sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces nearly everywhere they are sold (including restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas), except groceries and convenience stores (which are regulated by New York state).
Violators face a $200 fine.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the ban in May, heralded the measure's passage on Twitter:
Indeed, more than 35 percent of American adults and about 17 percent of youths, some 90.2 million people, are considered obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity is blamed for 400,000 deaths a year in the United States (by increasing a person’s risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke) and costs the national economy nearly $122.9 billion annually.
And the largest driver of increases in obesity and caloric consumption is sugary drinks, city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has said.
"Shrinking only one sugary drink per person every two weeks from 20 ounces to 16 ounces, New Yorkers could collectively prevent 2.3 million pounds gained per year," said Farley. "This would slow the obesity epidemic and prevent much needless illness.''
But big business has largely opposed the move and whined about today's decision.
"It will have a devastating effect on large businesses like beverage companies, but also mom-and-pops that rely on the profits of selling the drinks,” said Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices.
“We strongly encourage our guests to make choices that are right for them,” said Michelle King, a Dunkin’ Brands spokeswoman. “Forcing customers to purchase smaller beverages will also negatively impact small business owners like our franchisees, who are still dealing with a challenging economy.”
“We are very disappointed this proposal passed,” said Heather Oldani, a McDonald’s spokeswoman. “Public health issues cannot be effectively addressed through a narrowly focused ban.”
It is well known that some (and we emphasize some) food companies use all kinds of tools, including privately-commissioned scientific studies, focus groups and marketing research, to get into our brains and figure out how to make their products more appealing (by adding salt or sugar, for example), and thereby increase sales and profits.
Then, they bombard with us advertisements to complete the deal.
That doesn't leave much "freedom of choice" by the time we walk into a food store or sit down at a restaurant.
No, it is quite clear today's decision in New York is good for our health, our wallets and our country.